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18th August 2017 Bea Udeh

Opening a discourse with local communities #ADA

New Adventures & Re:Bourne regularly works with local, young people to create curtain raiser performances, which is then shared on stage with an audience before they watch a New Adventures show. The young people are then able to watch the show for free! (Photo: Vivienne Bailey)

From internationally touring dance theatre company and charity, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures & Re:Bourne, Nick Kyprianou (Audience Engagement Coordinator) and Louise Allen (General Manager, Re:Bourne) talk about their plans as part of the Audience Diversity Academy.

With nearly 330,000 people watching Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures’ productions live in 2016/17 at the heart of our plans going forward is how we can engage with a more diverse range of people who have never seen one of our shows before. Since the beginning of the company’s history in 1987 (with this year marking the 30th anniversary of New Adventures) audiences have always been at the forefront of Bourne’s mind when creating new work.

Last year we had a first-time attendance rate, on average, of 32% so we’re finding that we are still attracting new audiences. But, we want to work harder to engage with those particularly from a BAME background. Just taking part in the Audience Diversity Academy has already got the ball rolling and gathered excitement from across the company into how we can reach more people.

At the end of this year we will be embarking on a nationwide tour of Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, an award-winning production that takes the classic fairy-tale and puts it in the London Blitz of World War Two. Last seen in 2010 tickets are already selling fast. As part of our audience engagement plans to diversify our audiences we have been in conversation with the 19 presenting venues on the tour to have 30 complimentary tickets at each theatre to use for our purposes. These tickets will also be used to seat people involved in our participation activity that will accompany the tour.

Exploring the use of these tickets as part of the ADA we are looking to run a pilot Audience Ambassador programme in two cities that we know have an ethnically diverse population. We are still at the beginning of this experiment so can’t divulge too much but we’re hoping to reach out to gate keepers in the local community to find out how we can engage authentically with a BAME audience. The end goal is to then offer 30 people in each of the two cities a free ticket to see Cinderella with the hope that they will then return to a future production at that venue. We understand that working in partnership with the presenting venue is key so hopefully this will create a long-term relationship for the venue with this audience too. We recognise that as a touring company it is a challenge to build these relationships with audiences, as we only visit most venues for one week each year, but potentially by working in partnership with the presenting venues we should be able to overcome this barrier.

Watch this space, as I’m sure we’ll have even more to report on in our next blog post!